Pesas y Poder promotes gender equity, community empowerment, and healing from trauma through the practice of strength sports in El Salvador.
To serve this purpose, Pesas y Poder develops and delivers fitness and leadership curriculum to Salvadoran people of all genders and ages. We provide powerlifting instruction at a community gym for marginalized neighborhoods on the outskirts of San Salvador. These neighborhoods confront extraordinary gang and police violence, domestic violence, poverty and social stigmatization. These challenges have contributed to sedentary lifestyles, which are implicated in high rates of diabetes, and many locals express their struggles living with body fat. Understanding the intimate links between public health and empowerment, the program subverts entrenched gender norms, revaluing women’s bodies as a source of physical strength, and also offering men a safe space to express their own vulnerabilities. Men are often the victims of gang and police violence, while Salvadoran women are more likely to die of diabetes than bullets. Men and women train together, learning from one another in a teambuilding environment that rewards community resilience. The program aspires to create a gym space of affirmation and acceptance, rather than body shaming or discipline. In this way, the Pesas y Poder program addresses trauma, while confronting the larger power structures that shape our opportunities for fitness. In summary, Pesas y Poder is a research-informed, public health engagement project that uses athletic practice to fulfill a feminist social justice mission.